Ombudsman proposes free testing for people who need healthcare

Ljubljana – The Human Rights Ombudsman had proposed that the government enable rapid antigen testing for coronavirus for all users of healthcare services, who are currently obliged to meet the recovered-vaccinated-tested (PCT) rule. This would protect the system from new infections and prevent irreparable deterioration of health of individuals, it believes.

The institution noted in Monday’s press release that it had received many letters and initiatives suggesting that some residents are in distress due to the requirement of being recovered, vaccinated or tested for Covid-19 while visiting a doctor.

This could affect an individual’s decision whether to visit a doctor at all, and could lead to irreparable deterioration of individuals’ health, which had already shown with the access to the healthcare system being hampered during the epidemic.

The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman said it could not overlook the calls from experts that note that primary healthcare must remain accessible and that it could not be conditioned on anything.

“It is a moral and ethical obligation of doctors to treat all patients who need healthcare,” the office quoted Ombudsman Peter Svetina.

He also pointed to “worrying reports about the shortage of adequately trained staff that would provide appropriate expert assessment on the need to provide healthcare services without the PCT condition.”

The ombudsman also said that the relevant decree might not be in line with the act on patients’ rights, which stipulates that patients have the right to healthcare, which could only be limited by laws on public security and public health when the rights of other persons are at risk.

Svetina added that the “question is being raised again about the compliance of the decree as a legal act, which in this case encroaches on the right to healthcare by introducing the PCT condition.”

He noted that this was a human right that could be limited only by an act and not an implementing regulation, such as the decree.

The ombudsman nevertheless understands the legislative requirement that these rights may be limited “when the rights of other persons are at risk”, as without the PCT condition, the health of healthcare staff and patients could be at risk.

For this reason, it supports the condition “in principle and under the pre-condition of compliance with the constitutional order, but nevertheless thinks that free testing should be enabled to any patient when entering healthcare treatment”.

This would protect the system from new infections, enable fast detection of infections and, in particular, enable access to healthcare services and, consequently, exercise of the internationally and constitutionally established right to healthcare.

The ombudsman has also proposed that the government leave the issues related to the exercise of patients’ rights to the discretion of the legislature.